Russert Gives Gingrich Gruesome GOP Grilling

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was Tim Russert’s "guest" on “Meet the Press” Sunday, and it’s safe to assume the eloquent Georgian would have preferred something more pleasant for Christmas like a root canal, a colonoscopy, or an income tax audit. In fact, Russert gave Gingrich a grilling that many murder suspects don’t receive from hostile police officers in an interrogation room.

With that as pretext, while you read some of Russert’s inquiries, just imagine how incredibly unlikely it is that any Democrat candidate for president will ever face the kinds of questions Gingrich did this fine day. For instance, can you in your wildest dreams envision Russert asking John Edwards or Hillary Clinton something like this:

When you ran for speaker, you did call Democrats grotesque, dishonest, you said Jim Wright, the former speaker, was a crook. I mean, there’s a long history of very aggressive partisan rhetoric from Newt Gingrich. Do you regret that now?

Nice, huh? Or, how about this:

You said you’re not running for president yet. In every article that assesses your presidential prospects, starting with today’s New York Times, your home state paper, the Atlanta Constitution, it always talks about your liabilities. I want to talk about that and give you a chance to respond…This is how you’re—this is the Atlanta Constitution…Gingrich’s liabilities, as Americans would certainly be reminded in a campaign, run the gamut from personal to political. Twice divorced, he has been accused of having extramarital affairs—including one while he was leading the movement to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about an affair. ...

And then there are the ethics charges first raised in 1996. ... The House Ethics Committee investigated Gingrich’s use of tax-exempt charities to fund a college course he was teaching at two Georgia colleges.

“Critics charged that the course was political in nature and violated the groups’ tax-exempt status. Gingrich was reprimanded and ordered to pay $300,000 for improper use of funds and for twice providing the Ethics Committee with false statements.” How do you deal with that in a presidential campaign?

Think Russert is going to ask Hillary about Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, or Peter Paul the next time she's on "Meet the Press"?

Regardless of the answers, there was a question that I bet Russert regrets asking:

MR. RUSSERT: But do you, do you regret pressing the impeachment of President Clinton so hard?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: President—you know, I’m—I’ve been divorced twice.

Both times I’ve been deposed. Both times I was told, “Perjury is a felony. You should tell the truth under deposition.” President Clinton lied under oath as a lawyer in front of a sitting federal judge in a civil rights case. This was not about his personal behavior in the Oval Office. That’s a matter of judgment, and people can render judgment. The question is, do you want to go down the road of Nigeria and corruption and have a country in which, as long as he’s popular, he can break the law? And if Clinton gets to commit perjury on this topic, then what does the next president get to commit perjury on, and then what does the next president get to commit perjury on? This was entirely about something I knew personally. We have an obligation as citizens to tell the truth to a federal judge under oath. The president failed that.

Think Russert wishes he could take that one back?

2008 Presidential NBC Dateline
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